Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CDCES, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.
Jenny Sweigard, MD, is a board-certified physician involved in patient care, including general medicine and critical care medicine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8.5 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes. Type 2 diabetes symptoms can come on gradually over time. Because of this, you might not notice symptoms at first.
This article discusses 10 early signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes to watch out for. Once you start to notice these signs, take steps to see a healthcare provider and get tested.
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Polyuria, or the need to urinate frequently, is a classic symptom of diabetes. Normally, the kidneys are able to filter the blood and send glucose (sugar) from the blood to be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream.
When blood glucose levels become high, the body starts to make more urine. This is because the kidneys are not able to reabsorb all of the extra glucose and direct it back into the bloodstream.
When this happens, the extra glucose ends up spilling over into the urine, which pulls more water along with it, creating more urine. Once blood glucose levels return to normal, the need to urinate frequently should go away.
Although more commonly diagnosed in adults, children can develop type 2 diabetes. Early signs and symptoms are similar to those in adults. In children, frequent urination can often present as new nighttime bed-wetting.
Factors that can raise the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children include:

If your child is overweight and has one other factor, screening for type 2 diabetes will typically start around 10 years old or when they begin puberty, whichever comes first. Screening is then done every three years afterward.
Polydipsia, or excessive thirst, is a common early warning sign of diabetes. Especially when accompanied by other early diabetes warning signs, such as frequent urination or vision changes, it’s important to get screened for diabetes.
High blood glucose levels can cause excessive thirst by way of dehydration due to extra urine output from the kidneys.

When the glucose is pulling extra fluids into the urine, it can leave you feeling thirsty. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent severe dehydration from occurring. This excessive thirst should decrease as blood glucose levels are properly managed and return to target ranges.
Polyphagia, or extreme hunger, is another classic sign of diabetes. When blood glucose levels become too high, excess glucose is passed out of the body in the urine. Glucose contains calories, which are also lost from the body when this happens. In turn, this can cause you to become very hungry.
This extreme hunger prompts you to eat a lot of food to help make up for the calories lost with the glucose in the urine.

Unexplained weight loss is often noticed in people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes, but it can also be seen in people with type 2 diabetes.
In uncontrolled diabetes, glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of being transported to your cells—causing blood glucose levels to rise. When this happens, glucose is not being used as energy for cells, and your body thinks it’s starving.
In an effort to make up for the lack of glucose in the cells, your body turns to rapidly burning fat and muscle to create energy. This, along with extra calories from glucose lost in the urine, can cause unexplained weight loss.
If you have unintentionally lost 10 or more pounds or 5% of your body weight within the past six to 12 months, contact your healthcare provider.

High blood glucose levels can make you feel very tired. When your body isn’t able to use glucose from the blood for energy, fatigue can set in. Dehydration from increased urination can also cause you to feel very tired. If fatigue lasts longer than two weeks, it might be a good idea to see your healthcare provider.
High blood glucose can cause the fluid levels in your eyes to change. It can also cause swelling in the tissues of your eyes that help you to focus. Both of these changes in your eyes can lead to blurry vision. This type of vision change is generally only temporary and goes away when your blood glucose levels return to target ranges.

Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet are symptoms of a condition known as peripheral neuropathy.
Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage your nerves. It can also damage the small blood vessels that provide oxygen and other nutrients to your nerves. Your nerves cannot properly function without adequate oxygen and nutrients, leading to tingling and numbness in the extremities.

Contact a healthcare provider if you have tingling, numbness, burning, or pain in your hands or feet that interferes with your sleep or daily activities. Managing your diabetes is one of the best ways to help prevent any further nerve damage.
You can have prediabetes (high blood glucose levels that are not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes) for years without any symptoms. This means you likely won’t notice any signs or symptoms until it has developed into type 2 diabetes. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting screened for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes if any of the following apply:
High blood glucose levels can affect the nerves and blood vessels in your body, including those in your skin. Poor circulation can cause the skin to be dry and itchy. Additionally, fluid is pulled from cells throughout the body to produce enough urine to remove extra glucose, which can lead to dry skin.

If you are experiencing dry skin and other early signs of diabetes, ask a healthcare provider about getting screened for diabetes.
Yeast feeds on sugar, so it’s likely to thrive and overgrow when blood glucose levels are high. People with type 2 diabetes may be particularly susceptible to developing vaginal yeast infections, especially if blood glucose levels are high—which can disturb the delicate balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina.

Excess glucose excreted via the urine and other bodily fluids contributes to this. Once your blood glucose levels return to target ranges, the balance of yeast and bacteria in your body should also return to normal.
High blood glucose levels can lead to poor circulation and nerve damage, especially if it remains high in the long term. This can make it hard for your body to heal sores, cuts, and wounds—especially on the feet.
If not treated properly, even little cuts and sores on the feet can advance to diabetic foot ulcers. These are long-term wounds on the feet that don’t heal and are susceptible to infection. Call a healthcare provider if you have sores or wounds that are slow to heal, especially if accompanied by any other early signs or symptoms of diabetes.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop slowly over time. Early warning signs of type 2 diabetes include the need to urinate frequently, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, vision changes, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet, dry skin, recurrent yeast infections, and sores that are slow to heal.
Being aware of the early warning signs of diabetes can aid in early detection of type 2 diabetes. This can help prevent or delay possible complications. Being proactive by getting screened for type 2 diabetes if you have early warning signs is an excellent step towards taking charge of your health.
Along with getting a history of your symptoms, a healthcare provider can diagnose type 2 diabetes by checking your blood glucose levels. This might be done by a fasting blood glucose test, random blood glucose test, oral glucose tolerance test, or hemoglobin A1C test.
Depending on the results, you may be diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Your healthcare provider will be able to explain the results of your test to you.
Because symptoms tend to come on gradually over time, some people with type 2 diabetes do not notice any symptoms until their blood glucose levels are very high. If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, it’s important to get regular health screenings to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and complications from the disease.
If you have type 2 diabetes and keep your blood glucose levels in the target ranges, you might not have any symptoms. However, this is not an excuse to stop managing your diabetes. Once diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to always practice healthy lifestyle behaviors to help prevent complications from occurring.
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By Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CD, CDCES
Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CDCES, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.

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